The Poles of the Ark and the Philistines

1 Samuel 4 through 6 tells the story of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant. For them to even put it on a cart they had to use the poles that were part of the Ark. In my other post, I explain why I think those poles represent the Holy Spirit. God allowing His Ark to be captured has always puzzled me and my study of the Poles really stirred a lot of questions. (Please read 1 Samuel 4-6 as I am not trying to tell the whole story.)

The first time the Ark was moved in this story. The army of Israel had been beaten by the Philistines. The elders decided to bring the Ark into the battle. Yes, Joshua marched it around Jericho, but God had told him to do it. I am not sure God liked being used as a good luck charm; it is bad luck to be superstitious. The idea may sound like a good one, but God had not told them to take His Ark into battle. Since Eli had sent Hophni and Phinehas with the Ark let us assume that Levities of the Kohath clan moved it on their shoulders and that the cover was over it.

Points to think about.

  1. This seems to be God’s plan to rid Israel of Eli and his sons.
  2. The High Priesthood changed hands that day because Eli’s grandsons were too young for service.
  3. Samuel was a prophet not a priest, he was not a son of Aaron. I have never found an adoption cause for being a Levitical priest.
  4. There were other Sons of Aaron who served. We see both families during David’s reign. As the number of men grew certain tasks were chosen by lot. Remember Zechariah, John’s father.
  5. Shiloh was still important, but the Ark did not return there.

The Ark was moved by the Philistines. Israel lost; the battle, two corrupt priests, and God. The Philistines had God and they were not going to give Him back; it took seven months and a lot of misery for them to change their minds. Two cities were hit hard by a plague and the third city did not want the Ark. See my post on rats for a possible tumor that may have cause agony.

From the battle field to Dagon’s temple and to other cities the Philistines probably used a cart, any cart. But someone still had to pick it up and take it off that cart. They had to use the Poles, that was the only part of the Ark that non-priest could touch and they were not Kohaths. (Hold this thought.)

What happened to the three layers of covers for the Ark when it was being moved? The covers are never mentioned. You would think that they were over it in Israel. Had some of the rules gone by the wayside? (It seems that Samuel slept close to the Ark. That should not have been allowed. David and his team did not know how to move it.) I cannot imagine the Philistines not wanting to take a look at the God they had captured. So, between no cover and touching the Poles, no wonder the Philistines started dying. If Israel had disrespected the Ark by not having it covered that may be another reason they lost the battle.

Numbers 4 tells of God’s concern for the Kohaths and what Aaron and sons had to do to protect them. We know that Uzzah disrespected the Ark by touching it when the ox stumbled-2 Samuel 6:6 and 1 Chronicles 13:9. So, why did God not “break out” against every Philistine that touched the Ark? How about one big teachable moment for two nations. I think this psalm says it well – Psalm 74:22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. (KJV) Plead could be replaced with defend, and reproacheth could be talks about. The Philistines still attacked Israel, but I am sure they wanted nothing to do with God or the Ark. Israel had to learn to take the promises of God with them into battle and not a good luck charm. Jesus, Peter, and Paul experienced God rising against those who disrespected God’s cause-the soldiers fell down, Ananias and Sapphira died, and Elymas was blinded for a time.

From the Philistines to Jerusalem – Chapter 5 was a bad time for the Philistines, by #6 they were thinking that the God of Israel was very powerful. Not wanting to accept that they constructed a test and a peace offering. I knew the “new cart” was a sign of respect, but it makes more sense if they had been moving it on any cart they had or carrying it by the Poles. The cows added a level beyond their natural world, those cows would not have been contented walking away from the calves. The leaders were happy and they could get back to making the Israelites miserable as long as they left their God out of it.

The sad story is that the Levities had to learn a hard lesson about respecting their God and the rules that applied to them and their life. Beth Shemesh was a Levite town, they should have known better than to look in the Ark of God. Why did they do it? Maybe they thought that the Philistines had gotten away with peeking, or Shiloh had farther-reaching fingers than we thought, (Eli had not taken care of business and things happened.) or they just had to check that nothing was taken. Seventy men died, that may have been the majority of men in that town.    

Kiriath Jearim was called, they were a town of priests. Even though priests are from the clan of Kohath, I am not sure they should carry the Ark. But if it was covered and the Poles were on their shoulders it had to be better than a cart.    

Towns with all Levities and all priest was part of the agreement with God for being chosen to serve the Tabernacle and the Ark. So, to extend that idea Eleazar was a priest and he now had Eli’s job. (Eleazar was a “priestly” name.) It seems the Ark stayed there a long time-twenty-plus years before Saul became king, all of Saul’s reign, and however long David let it stay in Kiriath Jearim/Baalah of Judah. (Just because-No, I do not think the Ark sat outside on a hill.)

Just because their story is not told, where did the Table and the Lampstand go? Were they left in Shiloh or moved away? David got bread from the Table at Nob, but there was no mention of the Ark in that story. You hope the articles of the Tent were united in Solomon’s Temple.

In 2 Samuel 6 David is on a mission to bring the Presence of God to him in Jerusalem. It seems that the knowledge of the proper way of moving the Ark was lost or ignored. Instead of using the Poles and having Levities carry the Ark, David copies the Philistines and puts them on a cart. Someone died. You have to know there were committee meetings and scroll searches but David finally got it right and he moved the Ark to Jerusalem. Again, there is no mention of the rest of the Tabernacle. It seems that David moved the sacrifices away from the Ark. (So many questions and few answers, sorry.)

My purpose was to explore why the Philistines could move the Ark. Another question soon appeared. What happened to Israel and the Ark?

Israel – These are just some musings.

  • Your thoughts and plans may not be God’s plans and desires. The elders had a “thought’ but they did not ask God or the High Priest.
  • The Book of Judges ended with a dark tale of doing what you think is right. This is an extension of that.
  • The Father holds His children to a higher standard than the Philistines. We should not act like them.
  • You can follow rules and not have your heart right with God. The Levities had forgotten the rules.
  • I believe there was a remnant, a “seven thousand” who still wanted God.


  • God will use whom he needs to for His plan to work. Their “victory” did not mean they were right.
  • Their pride brought their downfall. Would you have given back the Ark after the second time Dagon fell?
  • They treated Jehovah as they did their idols. God did not strike them dead immediately, like Uzzah, but rats, plague, and panic came and did their jobs.
  • The Philistines touched the Poles (the Holy Spirit) and disrespected the Ark of the Covenant of God. He took His vengeance.

Wow. My study spread out into areas I did not expect. Israel proved herself from the beginning to the end of this tale. Then it took twenty years for Samuel to spark a renewal. The Philistines were being Philistines, they hated God’s children before, during, and after touching the Poles of the Ark, the Father gave them a chance and they did not take it.

David—Samuel to Goliath

I am going to paint a slightly different picture about the period in David’s life that started with Samuel and extends to him meeting Goliath. This period has gotten much attention in the last few years, mainly because picking on Jessie has become popular. I read a morning devotion that rightly said David defeated Goliath because he had a winning attitude. What Brother Prince did not mention was the anointing of David’s life (July 7th in Destined to Reign). God, in His wisdom, did not fill in a lot of details. So, tradition and agenda have stepped in and colored much of this story. Anyway, here is my not-so-traditional view on some of 1 Samuel 16 and 17.

Samuel—The anointing of David was as much of a test for Samuel as it was about replacing Saul. His choosing a different king would not look good on his resume and that resume would try to kill him. It is not too hard to see that Samuel was nervous, and he passed this to Jesse to get his family together quickly for this sacrifice/feast/rebellion against Saul. I would bet that waiting for David to be found and brought in from a distance pasture did not make his morning.

Jesse—Please see the post-Cut Jesse Some Slack. I will go out on a limb here and say that Jesse was not only a man of means but possibly the leader of the tribe of Judah. 1 Chronicles 2 has the family tree of Judah and it runs right to Jesse and his sons. Given that David and Solomon were kings while this was being written/edited, that might make sense. It may also show that Jesse was a tribal leader. There is a difference in the number of sons of Jesse in 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. In Samuel, David was the eighth son. In Chronicles, they listed him as number seven. A child dying may account for this difference, but we do not know.

Eliab and the other sons—Eliab is the firstborn, which meant a lot in terms of inheritance and the grooming Jesse would give him to be the leader of the family and possibly the tribe. Chapter 17 has more about his “older brother syndrome”. To be fair to him, it must have been hard to have his baby brother anointed king, in front of him, and he would just lead the family. Jonathan uses him as the excuse for David missing the feast day with King Saul. I am sure it was hard on all the brothers to watch David excel in the things he did because of the anointing. David is out in the field tending the sheep was a family duty that all of them had done in their day. All of them had to go on the run with David as Saul started hunting him down-they joined him in the cave/stronghold.

David—The youngest child of a shepherd. In their day, every son had done his time tending the sheep (Remember Rachel and Moses’ wife); it was part of growing up in a family of shepherds. It seems this task went to the youngest child when they were ready. When this rite of passage occurred may have been different for everyone, but David may have started very early. He could have been as young as twelve at his anointing. (Young men could have publicly read Torah around twelve years old. Bar mitzvah and synagogues were not a thing in Israel during his lifetime.) (Was David a Priest)

My picture really starts here. I believe David was young at his anointing and that there are several years between 1 Samuel 16: 13 and verse 14. Seven to ten years is good for me. That would make David nineteen to early twenties when he entered Saul’s service and faced Goliath. (The marriage offer of Saul’s first daughter comes into my thinking.)

So, what was David doing in these years before he came to Saul’s attention? With the anointing now affecting his life, he would kill the lion and the bear. He learned he was special and could be fearless because he was the “head and not the tail”. The brothers saw and knew that the horn of oil from Samuel had made a difference.

David grew up as a musician. Psalm 23 would reflect these “quiet years” in his life very well. He may have penned Psalm 29 while he sheltered in a field watching his flocks. I see a future king writing Psalm 101 as he wonders about his future life. His thoughts as he tended sheep can be seen in other psalms, like #86.

El Shaddai supplied those years for him to grow. From verse 14 to Goliath continued that learning cycle because David and “his time” was not yet ready. He learned about the duties of a king and the daily life in that environment when he played his harp. As an armourbearer, they trained him in warfare and tactics.

Goliath—To stay with the steps of being trained, Goliath was just the next step up in his lesson cycle of foes. As a shepherd, I can’t think he never battled wolves. But the lion and bear would get everyone’s attention. So, defeating the man-mountain was like Saul rescuing the city of Jabesh Gilead (possibly where his mother’s family came from). These acts put both Saul and David on the map and into the public’s eye. Between the anointing and the years of practice guarding his sheep, Goliath never had a chance. Now extend this to hundreds of men for the bride’s price, saving cities, defeating raiding parties, to entire armies and nations as the king.

David, growing with his anointing from Samuel to defeating Goliath, should remind us that God has His plan and time for each of us to be used.


  • Jesus was twelve at the Temple.
  • I wonder what the feast was like after Samuel chose David over all of his brothers. Do you think Jesse made him go right back into the fields that day?

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – David

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.  1 Samuel 16:13 (KJV, bold added)

The word here for “came upon” is tsȃlach.  It seems that the Holy Spirit stayed with him and did not depart.  If we substitute the main uses of the word of tsȃlach; God prospered David all of his life, and it is not a problem to see that blessing throughout his life.

At first, it bothered me that the Holy Spirit is mentioned just six times in connection with David, but He is mentioned less with Moses!  Then I realized that it is in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit.  His primary purpose is to bring attention to Jesus, not Himself.  So even though David, the writer, was led by the Spirit; the Spirit had him write about Jesus in the Psalms.

Below are the six verses that directly connect David and the Spirit.  I put them into a timeline in David’s life, even though the middle four do not have a defined time stamp in reference to the others.  Read the whole reference so that the verses are in context, I think they will show growth in knowing and understanding the importance of the Spirit in David’s walk with God.

  • 1 Samuel 16: 13 (the coming upon)
  • Psalm 139: 7 (a song of praise and thanks) To put this into after he acted crazy to escape the Philistines when he was hiding from Saul.
  • Psalm 51: 11 (Bathsheba and his cries for the Spirit to not leave him like He did Saul)
  • Psalm 143: 10 (a cry for mercy) If I would guess where/when this was written; I would put this during the time when David was running from Absalom after he crossed the Jordan near Lo Debar.
  • 1 Chronicles 28: 12 (plans for the Temple)
  • 2 Samuel 23: 2 (last words)

When you read about David’s life; we tend to think he was anointed by Samuel and then went to work for Saul right away.  If there was a gap then his ability to kill the lion and the bear compares very well to that of Samson, when the Spirit came upon him.

Cut Jesse Some Slack!!!!!

Cut Jesse Some Slack!!!!!

Having heard these sermons for several years now I can truthfully say we should cut Jesse some slack.  When Samuel anointed David as king, David was not there initially.  It has become the rage to blast Jesse for disrespecting his youngest son, the sermon this weekend included David’s mother in the “let’s hate David club.”  I am not sure what it would be like to be the youngest of eight sons, but I would bet the toughest of Jesse’s sons was David.  Why he had seven bothers to fight with, that lion and bear never stood a chance.  I would guess that by the time he was anointed, David was the overachieving little brother who would not back down from anyone or anything.

Think about the day Samuel shows up in Bethlehem.  The town leaders were in panic mode, and they had to find Jesse and sons.  David, as the youngest, was tending the sheep, and probably left at first light.  A job that every other brother had done when they were the youngest.  David may have been an hour or two walk from town by the time Jesse was told to come with his sons.

In our twentieth century, western mentality it was WRONG to leave David out.  What if it was just normal and practical to hurry to the sacrifice because it would have been rude to keep Samuel waiting three hours while they tried to find the pasture David was tending the sheep in?   Who knows, David may have been composing the 23 Psalm that morning, and it was inconvenient for him to leave in the middle of the tune!

In addition to all of that Jesse is mentioned forty-four times in the NIV.  God did not seem to upset about David’s treatment because in Isaiah 11: 1 and 10, and in Romans 15: 12 the term “the root of Jesse” is used to describe Jesus.  The term “root of David” is used twice in Revelations, chapter 5 and 22.

Okay, I do not know why David was not there to start with.  But this may be one time to not westernize a Bible story to make a point that was not there.  Saul’s servant in 1 Samuel 16: 18 certainly had plenty of good things to say about David and I find it hard to believe that Jesse was not proud of all of his sons, especially the child of his old age.

In Samuel – The Anointing of David I look at it from Samuel’s side.  I believe it was a test for the old prophet to go and anoint a new king.

pic from:

Samuel – Saul’s Servant

The unsung hero in the story of Samuel and Saul is the servant.  I am pretty sure I have never heard a sermon about his role in the crowning of Saul as king.  He is never named and only referred to as a servant (na ar).  He had a “God part” to do and did it well.  He is easily compared to Ananias (Acts 9) in the story of Saul the Apostle.  He did the job that needed to be done and was never heard of again.  Na ar is mentioned nine times before Saul’s signs and only once after them.

In the Strong’s/Vines Concordance the first definition listed is probably not the description of this servant.  I think he would have been younger than Saul but not a boy.  He was certainly trusted and displayed knowledge of his physical surrounding.  He was also spiritually aware because he encouraged Saul to “see the prophet” when he was ready to go home.  He had brought his own money, and was willing to use it to resolve the “donkey problem.”  He was obedient and loyal to Saul and followed Saul’s leading when the uncle asked about Samuel.

He was honored at the sacrifice because he got to eat with Saul in the main room.  But he was not allowed to witness the actual pouring of the oil.  He would have seen the results of the anointing because the oil would have been all over Saul’s head.  He observed/witnessed the three signs and I cannot believe Saul was not talking about them as they went.

God used an unnamed servant to affect the history of Israel; sometimes we have to do things “just because.”  It turned out well for him.  Who knows maybe he was Ziba the servant in 2 Samuel 9 who did play a part in the life of Mephibosheth and the story of Lo Debar.